While Collier is building funds for infrastructure to handle expected growth, Lee commissioners just build an infrastructure deficit by continuing to under-collect impact fees… ensuring a future of crowded roads, inadequate services and more burden on existing taxpayers. Collier gets it right… so when will Lee commissioners get it?
Originally Published in the Naples Daily News on December 10, 2019 by Patrick Riley
Collier County leaders on Tuesday raised water and sewer impact fees, implemented a gradual hike over three years on some road impact fees, and eyed ways to attract affordable housing despite the increases.
The county regularly studies impact fees — a one-time tax local governments impose on new development to pay for the added burden the project will put on infrastructure and services — to see if they need to be adjusted based on changing costs and need, among other factors.
The most recent studies suggested some impact fees should be raised while others should go down. Commissioners last month implemented the reductions but put off a decision on increases to have more time to consider the matter.
In two motions Tuesday, both approved by a 4-1 vote, commissioners increased water and sewer impact fees and implemented a phased raise for certain road impact fees. The rate increases take effect March 30.
Commissioner Bill McDaniel voted against both hikes, saying there has been “very little discussion with regard to controlling of expenses.”
“These impact fees have been baked into our system since time immemorial,” he said. “They go do a study, says it’s warranted, boom, we put them in. And then we turn around and have continuous discussions about the lack … of housing affordability.”
Commissioner Penny Taylor, however, argued residents will continue to move to Collier, and with lots of land left to develop in the county, future roads will need to be built and maintained.
“I think that it’s very important that growth pays for growth,” she said. “I think it’s very important that we maintain a quality of life here and we have a standard that’s the envy of so many counties in Florida.”
Water and sewer impact fees will see some of the biggest percentage increases.
Much of the revenue from those hikes will go toward the county’s planned new utilities plant near the Collier County fairground. The plant will help serve new villages proposed to be built in the county’s rural eastern areas.
For most new single-family residences with less than 4,000 square feet, water impact fees will rise by 32% and wastewater impact fees by 22.7%. The same percent increases will apply to new commercial developments.
That means a new single-family home would pay an additional $1,433 for those impact fees.
Road impact fees for that home would add an additional $646, although those fees will now be gradually increased over the course of three years. That means with the road impact fee for single-family homes proposed to increase about 9% overall, it will go up 3% each year.
When the impact fee increases are in full effect, most new single-family residences with less than 4,000 square feet will pay $14,786 in water, wastewater and road impact fees compared to $12,707 now.
For multi-family developments, the new water and sewer impact fees would add $1,433 in fees per unit. Road impact fees will increase or decrease depending on the project’s number of stories.
Although water and sewer impact fees are increasing, for some new developments, the total amount in impact fees among the three categories will decrease because road impact fees are declining in some instances.
That means a new 10,000-square-foot office building, for instance, will pay $14,045 less in total impact fees.
Commissioners moved ahead with the impact fee increases Tuesday despite discussions about whether the county is “addicted” to those fees, as some commissioners characterized it, and warnings from the county’s budget director about the volatile nature of impact fees as a revenue source.
Commissioner Burt Saunders, however, said he took exception to describing the county’s use of impact fees over the years as an “addiction.” The board, he said, made a policy going back 25 years or more that growth would pay for growth and that the county would maximize its impact fees.
“I would describe it as a rational policy to make sure that newcomers pay their fair share for the cost of infrastructure so that current residents don’t have to pick up the tab,” Saunders said.
County leaders also tried to strike a balance between the need to be able to pay to accommodate future growth and Collier’s ongoing struggle to build up its stock of affordable housing.
Commissioner Andy Solis, in his motion on road impact fee raises, asked county staff to look at how to make the county’s impact fee deferral programs more attractive, restart an impact fee deferral fund and refine how impact fees apply to affordable housing.
County staff will analyze whether it can make some additional land-use categories for affordable housing, said Amy Patterson, director of capital project planning, impact fees and program management for the county.
“We’re just trying to develop some options,” she said after the meeting.
Still, some opposing impact fee increases have argued that the hikes run counter to the county’s effort to have more affordable housing.
“If we want to provide housing for service personnel, why would we increase the cost of housing in Collier County?,” Lauren Melo, president of the Naples Area Board of REALTORS, asked commissioners Tuesday.